Robert, Alex and Alan 1 arrived at the mobile fortress Purifier. The trio immediately went to the bridge, where the three of them met with the construct in command: Cosmo 3. Not a captain in the way that Outer World ships do, but rather an installed artificial persona and expert system, Cosmo 3—for all intents and purposes—is the ship. The other constructs that appear as crew are actually its many subroutines, all of which are utterly expendable; the same is true for its boats. Its passenger capacity is solely for the purpose of moving external populations, a capacity that it can reconfigure in and out of existence with dizzying speed, and right now that capacity is being moved out in favor of firepower.
In the bridge, Cosmo 3 appeared as a hologram to facilitate cooperation, taking the form of an imposing older man.
“Engineer,” Cosmo 3 said, “sensors report that the cocoon’s integrity is holding, but if the current pattern continues that will fail within one day.”
“Fortunately all useful subsystems in the vault are disabled.” Alan 1 said, “That is likely why the cocoon hasn’t broken yet.”
“Agreed.” Alex said, “So, what do we do?”
“The breech cannot be wholly sealed as it is. Even with the prisoner’s corpus destroyed, some portion of its essence remained. It was enough to activate the hidden circle. The situation is itself now at a near-catastrophic level.” Alan 1 said.
“I am authorizing a total, deep-level reformatting of the vault.” Robert said, “Nothing less will do, and nothing more is possible given what we have on hand. The Council monitors this situation, yes?”
“Correct.” Cosmo 3 said, “I feed the Council data in real time.”
“Is there anything we need to do before we’re close enough to begin the process?” Alex said.
“Standard procedure is to establish and maintain quarantine.” Cosmo 3 said, “Assets are on station doing just that. Nothing gets out, and nothing will suborn my assets.”
“Then we must be prepared for a non-standard response.” Robert said.
“What do you mean?” Alex said.
“To become effective in destroying an enemy, one first studies the target. Executing operations meant to test responses, tease out procedures and others compel the target to expose how he thinks and acts given this or that stimulus is how Engineers tailor our techniques to the flaws of our foes.”
“I concur.” Alan 1 said, after a long pause.